Amon Amarth
Berserker

Over the course of the Amon Amarth‘s 10 album, 20+ year career, they have been one of the most consistent bands in metal. If you were to plot a line with their albums on it, they are almost all certainly in a straight line when it comes to quality with a couple that go over the line into the ‘damn good’ space ( Once Sent from the Golden Hall, With Oden on Our Side) to a couple that dip below into the ‘treading water’ area (The Crusher, Fate of Norns).  Well, album number 11, Berserker, I’m afraid to report, dips a little below the line onto merely ‘ok’.

Of course, don’t fret- it’s still an Amon Amarth album, highly polished, often rousing, melodic Viking death metal, but often a bit safe and predictable. And honestly, they haven’t delivered a truly bad album in their long discography, and Berserker is not a bad album at all, but it continues the more melodic trend heard on 2016s Jomsviking.  And like that last album, there are a few ragers, some filler, and some downright commercial numbers, but all of it instantly recognizable as Amon Amarth, good and bad.

Let’s start with the good, as with all of their albums that a couple of tracks that just get it right, delivering, blood pumping, fist pounding anthems of Viking furor: opener “Fafner’s Gold”, standout “Valkyria”, first single “Raven’s Flight” and “Ironside” see Amon Amarth at their melodic, heaving, hammering, viking  best, while the trio of “The Berserker at Stamford Bridge”, “When Once Again We Set Our Sails” and closer “Into the Dark” add a little somber atmosphere to the fray with good effect.

But there are also a few tracks of sugary, bouncy, predictable, almost arena/radio friendly rock, only made death metal by Hegg’s coarse growls: “Crack the Sky”, “Mjölner, Hammer of Thor”, “Shield Wall” and “Wings of Eagles” (which could be an Unearth number without the Viking vocals and lyrics), while certainly expected Amon Amarth numbers are just a bit too light in the pommel for my liking, despite some undeniable catchiness (especially “Skoll and Hati”).

There’s an old saying in (American) football: “Looks like Tarzan, plays like Jane”, and with the cover artwork adorning Berserker and then the music contained within, it seems a appropriate here as Berserker is the band’s least impressive album in while. But no doubt it wont stop the Viking juggernaut from continuing to make consistent albums for the foreseeable future, I just hope they have a bit of an uptick for the next one.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by E. Thomas
May 13th, 2019

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